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What Gets Made

How to choose what projects to spend time and effort on from my long list of ideas used to be a bit of a conundrum for me. I could choose one idea and put on blinders to focus on one project at a time, giving it my all and letting that project race to completion at which point I would start the next project. My other option would be to keep many irons in the fire and try to tend many projects at the same time knowing that they will all advance at a snail's pace to the finish line because each one will only get a fraction of the time I have to give each week. Little by little I have come to realize that the later works better for me. I've finally noticed that if I try to work on only one project over an extended period of time I become distracted thinking about the projects I'm not working on. Then I end up working slower than I'd like to anyway. So... many projects at once is my style.

Since I've worked this way for years now, I can now safely say that I believe each of my projects benefits from this system. A short time away from a project, be it a few hours or a couple of weeks, lets it breathe and lets me come back to it with fresh eyes; and the thoughts, choices, and handwork that happen with one project often affect, even subtly, my thoughts, choices, and handwork on another.

If we think about it, everything we do is connected if only because it is us experiencing our life and doing and making the things that we do and make. Everything that we experience and watch and make and say and think influences other things that we experience and watch and make and say and think.

Once, in a big, crowded art museum exhibit this idea of everything affecting everything occurred to me in such a clear way. I was looking at a particular painting (I wish I remembered which piece or even which artist it was) and I remember feeling attracted to the painting, both its subject matter and mood. Right away it brought to mind an experience I had had recently, which in turn made me like the painting even more, and made me think about what makes us attracted to particular pieces of art. Certainly the other people at the exhibit didn't have this same attraction for this same reason. But what were they feeling and how were they connecting to the work in the show? A viewer who had just returned from a peaceful retreat would obviously not bring the same mindset to the exhibit as a viewer who had just witnessed a horrific accident moments before entering the museum. We all bring our previous life experiences with us to whatever we do, be it seeing art, conversing with others, how we interpret a book, or cross the street, or raise our kids. The more meaningful and more recent experiences probably affect us the most in the moment, though all of our experiences are within us and sway us however minutely.

Each of us is a container of experiences and each life experience added to the pot changes in some way, great or small, the rest of the "soup." As we add life to the pot, the soup changes, and each bit of life we add changes the taste. This must be why the soup of our life at 20 years old tastes so different from the version at 50! It's technically the same soup, but with 30 more years of "ingredients" mixed in.

Which brings me back to how I work and the melting pot of ideas. And the projects and ideas that come out of that pot. All of it is connected whether the making happens in a focused, linear way or in a juggling-of-several-things-at-once way. And however we choose to "season" our soup and serve it, it's going to stew and change and make different things and ideas come out each time it's served. Whether those things get made one after another influencing the projects that come directly before and after; or whether they get made in tandem to the projects around them influencing the immediate decisions and creation while ideas bounce back and forth between them. One at a time or many at a time, whatever works, and it's all connected.

Some of the varied projects I've worked on including drawings, ceramic jewelry, photography collages, and stitching on paper with dye. All of these projects/pieces overlapped with at least one of the others while they were being made.


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